Institute – where I begin learning to be a teacher

Disclaimer: All posts under ‘Teach for India’ are published rough drafts, cos I have ZERO time for editing considering how hectic life is. Once that changes, this disclaimer’ll go.

Its been over a month since I got to Pune and time has simple FLOWN. There’s just SO MUCH happening that every day feels like a week in my pre-TFI life.
Institute is the 5 week training program every cohort of Teach for India Fellows go through before we go into our city schools.
There are 270 of us here right nowand I’ve loved meeting almost everybody I’ve met so far.

The place we’re at is simply superb. We’re in a university campus on top of a hill (FLAME, Lavale) , quite cut off from the rest of Pune.It’s green and pretty and oh.so.peaceful. All my dust and pollen allergy is completely gone here. I don’t remember the last time I sneezed! Makes me hate city air so much.

Training has been SO SO HECTIC that it’s very surprising if I get 15 minutes of quiet time to myself in a day. We end up working about 16-18 hours a day..initially I thought that was an exagerration, but soon enough it isn’t. Still, I’ve managed to squeeze in a run at least 4-5 times a week. And it’s the best thing I’ve got to keep me going here. When things are this hectic, one has to stop to prioritize health and well being over work. There are people all around me dropping out of exhaustion and sickness.

The good thing is when my head hits the pillow, I’m knocked out before I can complete a thought.
And some days it isn’t just physical exhaustion, it’s mental. The amount of information and feelings that seems to have infused its way into my every cell makes me feel like I’ve been hit by a train, and swollen like the next bit of emotion might just cause me to burst.

And then there’s planning for your 40 minute lesson in summer school. We do that almost every day, and until you get the hang of it, it’s frustrating and tedious especially when you’re new to it and sleep deprived. The silver lining- it brings all of us together in our sleep deprived misery. At 11 pm you’ll find about 30 of us at work in a lecture hall on campus- in our day clothes, pajamas, running gear. We’re powering through. Not just on caffeine, but with an amazing support system that comprises of our staff, 1 year fellows and the rest like me who are are part of the Mumbai cohort. Sometimes it does feel like we’ve got a super high concentration of good-hearted wonderful people in TFI. There’s appreciation being voiced, notes of love and gratitude being passed around, Secret Santa being played in May, and hugs. It’s hard to get away from love here. And that’s good, cos some days love is all you need.

On that cheesy note, I end this post. Bits and pieces that will elaborate on my experience during Institute will follow.

 

 

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Two roads diverged in a wood..

..and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

~”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost 

Today’s Daily Prompt is about Taking Chances.

Until this year, I’d have a hard time picking a significant instance of taking a chance on something, but this year, for me, is the year of taking chances.

I go from being an engineer to a school teacher, with my career after 2 years still unplanned. 

I move from comfy, good-weather Bangalore where family is, to Mumbai which has been presented to me as a stinky, crowded, dengue-ridden, flood-prone city. 🙂  But the nay-sayers haven’t managed to deter me. No. I’m pushing on – excited and happy (and maybe a little bit naive). I chose Mumbai, I chose my adventure. I’m pretty sure I won’t regret it. You know why? Cos I’ve heard more ÏloveMumbai than Ilove<insert any other Indian city>. I’m going to take them Mumbai-lovers at their word and discover it for myself.

I’m stalling marriage. No, I don’t have a guy down on one knee asking me for my hand..Oh wait. I have about 6 in line right now..on a matrimonial site. 

The reason why I put that under ‘taking chances’ is because that’s what it’s seen as by the traditionalists in my Indian family. I’m 24- the age at which there’s a very high demand for girls like me. The older I get, the demand goes down in the marriage market. I know. I sound like a commodity. This has both made my stomach turn. and made me laugh. Don’t get me wrong, my parents don’t see me as commodity..but those are the rules of the arranged marriage game. Your daughter has the best chances of winning herself a prize-groom if she (or rather- her parents) plays her hand in her early 20s. 

It’s no surprise that I love some dialogues in the Pixar movie Brave. For those who aren’t familiar with the story line- the film tells the story of a princess named Merida who, determined to make her own way in life, defies an age-old custom, causing chaos in the kingdom by expressing the desire to not be betrothed.

The headstrong daughter  ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The headstrong daughter
©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This dialogue between Merida and her mum, Queen Elinor, is a pretty accurate reflection of what it’s like to be me right now.

Princess Merida: I don’t want my life to be over. I want my freedom!
Queen Elinor: But are you willing to pay the price your freedom will cost?
Princess Merida: I’m not doing any of this to hurt you!
Queen Elinor: If you could just try to see what I do, I do out of love.
Princess Merida: But it’s my life! I’m just not ready!

The anxious parents ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The anxious parents
©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

And this is the part that made me  happy cos I was imagining my parents saying this to me. 🙂 

Princess Merida: And so, there is the matter of my betrothal. I decided to do what’s right, and…
[as she looks around the room she notices her mother in the background trying to stop her]
Princess Merida: : And…and break tradition.
[she looks over at her mother who is miming what Merida should say]
Princess Merida: : My mother, the queen, feels…uh, in her heart, that I…that we be free to…write our own story. Follow our hearts, and find love in our time

🙂

And I end this post with Princess Merida’s closing narration:

“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.” 

Why I Blog

 

This post is in response to the Blogging 201 assignment and has been posted a day too late cos I’m presently holidaying in Kerala and thought I’d be taking a break from blogging..but I notifications from my blogger-friends wooed me back. Soo…here! It’s been almost 2 years since I created this blog, and now I tell you why I’m blogging-

I’m having me a partyy, a party for two EVERYBODY

If anybody’s noticed, I’ve been blogging a lot more in the past month. Besides the fact that I had more time on my hands (since I quit my job), I also hoped to increase readership.

Why would you have a house party and invite a tonne of people? Cos you want to meet a lot of people and engage in conversation with people you wouldn’t have met if you were holed up in your room.

(Google tells me 1 tonne = 1000 kilos, but I”m not really weighing people at my party..soo..even if that dress does make you look fat, don’t worry come on in! – aannnd that’s how you take an analogy too far.)

That’s why I blog. I was plenty shy at first (this blog has twice been private) and then I wanted to speak up, I wanted to find people I had something in common with, meet interesting people who were living lives so different from mine.

My house-party isn’t very happening yet, but I have managed to meet so manyy interesting people!  I’m still a little shy- which is why this blog hasn’t seen the light of Facebook..but maybe one day soon I’ll put this out there..because this is a platform from which my voice can be heard, and getting past the shyness lets me reach more people.

Talking about being heard- soon I want to tell the stories of the people I meet, the children I get to teach- the people who don’t get heard. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them, and I’d like for more people to hear their stories. So, I’ll be their voice on the internet.

Sharing brings joy and happiness. (Also the best line to excuse yourself when stealing your friend’s fries)

It’s what gives us a sense of community. I blog to be part of that community. We share, we encourage, we empathize, we appreciate. Blogging is about sharing- sharing experiences, thoughts and opinions, ideas, art…etc. etc. And every response we get brings us joy, every comment we leave brings the other some joy.

(Was that too subtle? Here’s the not-subtle version: I love comments. And likes too, but comments are super-er! When I see I’ve got traffic and likes, but no comments it’s like having my doorbell rung, and my spirits soar cos I have a visitor and I run to the door and throw it wide open..but nobody’s there. They passed by without saying anything. I’m glad they came and saw my house..but I’d love if they stayed and chatted.

Oh dear. I overdid it when I killed subtlety. Now I sound like a poor ignored child.)

It’s nice to know that we’ve been heard, that we’ve managed to make a little splash in somebody’s ocean eventhough we’re little fish in a pond somewhere, that as spread out as we are- all us are united under the bloggers sun.

Life’s a journey worth documenting

When I’m 80 and a legend, maybe they’ll want to make a documentary or biopic or something about me..and if I’m like frail and quivery, I’m not going to be able to tell them all they need to know. So instead I’ll get “thesalmonyatra.wordpress.com” tattooed on my scalp (cos I don’t think the scalp gets wrinkly- hence my tattoo stays legible, and also I might be naturally bald by then) and they’ll have enough juice to create something amazing.

Until then I’ll make sure my life gets that amazing and document my memories and experiences here. 🙂 Stay tuned! (In 2060, when my movie is out you’ll want to say you knew me and read all about my life as it happened 🙂 )

 

 

An Ode to Working Mothers

“We passed by this Flower Hmong woman working in the field with her baby bundled on her back. Women in the villages seem to do the same physical work as men, but with extra loads on their back women’s work seems to be more challenging.” – TravelingSolemates.com

 

I worked for over 2 years in a corporate company as a software engineer. In my last year, one of my good friends at work was a young mother. On so many occasions I’d feel so bad for her because of how difficult her day seemed, and yet she’d never complain, she’d never say she was tired, and she’d always go the extra mile to do all the work she was assigned (even the unfair amounts that should’ve been assigned to someone else).

Now, I don’t consider myself a poet or anything..but on Mother’s Day last year, I wrote a poem for all the mothers who worked with me, and it was inspired by this friend of mine. I thought maybe I’ll post this poem here on Mother’s Day and then I realised Mother’s Day fell on different days in different parts of the world..AND THEN I realised mothers deserve to be celebrated everyday..so I’m going ahead and posting that poem today 🙂

 

An Ode to Working-Mothers – by Sara Pulickal

She’s up in the morning
before anybody else
Fighting tiredness and sleep
She leaves the comfort of her bed.
She’s got an hour before the baby is up
So much to do
Before she catches her bus
There’s a house to clean
A baby to bathe
her husband’s breakfast
and then lunch to make.
In the middle of it all
She sends up a prayer
not just for her husband and child
but for assistance in this race against time.

She finally makes it
She catches her bus
And she reaches the office,
looking like any one of us.
She’s a daughter, she’s a wife
But look closer- she is more
We don’t realise she’s on full-time mother-mode
She worries about her baby, but stays focused on her code*
code that stares back at her from her computer’s screen
Reminding her of the deadline that’s so hard to meet.
She’ll crack jokes and she’ll be your friend
But inside she’s just waiting for her work-day to end
But even that doesn’t bring her to-do list to it’s end
Cos there’s a long journey back home and some more chores before bed
But her world lights up when she’s back with her child
It’s the only high she enjoys in this roller-coaster ride
Just thinking of her day can drive you insane
But she’s driven by love, love that makes her rise above her pain.

To all these women who are mothers
That demographic in our workplace, so significantly above the others,
We celebrate you today for being the women that you are
Women who do more than they should
Women with the strength that only comes with motherhood
For the blood sweat and tears- that it takes to live your life
For the hours away from your baby and from your role as a wife
For your company, your laughter and all that you share
We’re ever so grateful, we want you to know we care
We wish you the best,
peace, happiness and whenever possible- some rest:)

We pray you have the strength to face all that comes your way,
And with all our love we wish you
a Happy Mother’s Day!

*I..and the mothers worked in IT (well those mothers are still working there, I’m not. Alleluia 🙂 )  , so almost all our work revolves around code, i,e computer programming language, that’s as technical as I care to get.. aand that’s me trying to explain ‘code’ to people who might not get what code is. And maybe that was unnecessary, but never mind.

A baby on her back, a woman works in her field in Matuli, a village in northern Malawi. Copyright: Paul Jeffrey.

Aunt Scrooge needs her fix

I am aunt to a 2 year old girl and a 9 month old baby boy. And I’ve been living in the same house as them since the time the older one was born. I’ve seen a lot – inconsolable howling babies, fever-ridden babies, nights in the hospital, poop on my wrist thanks to a diarrhoea-baby, the smell of puke on my shirt when I’m out with friends because I played with a well-fed baby right before leaving the house..you get the picture.

After all of the above, I’m guessing I’ve led you to believe I’ve become quite the Aunt Scrooge, BahHumbugging my way through life stepping over crying pooping little humans, grimacing at any trace of baby-drool or puke that might get on me.

But No! Infact, just when life makes me most grouchy, no amount of chocolate, no amount of ice cream, no amount of any happy-food can do what a giggling happy baby does for me.

Lets get one thing clear- I’m not one of those girls who go  ‘Awwwww’ at every soft and cuddly thing she sees. No, I’m like Hulk Hogan cuddling a baby, OK?

Hulk Hogan says,

hulk hogan” Babies can be so cute you wonder how completely un-cute,gross or evil people get from being cute babies to what they are today. What? No, I’m not talking about me..Just listen dude, I’m making a point. Where was I?

Yeah, so babies. If they weren’t cute we’d dump them somewhere when they got too hard to handle. It’s true. Apparently, evolution made us respond to cute characteristics..it triggers a protective nurturing reaction in us..cos you see animal-babies can take of themselves so they needn’t be cared for till adulthood. Human babies need taking care of..actually, so do some human adults. Heh.”

Just kidding. Hulk Hogan didn’t say that. I did. 🙂  Actually evolutionary biologists did.  I was afraid I’d lose my audience if I went on and on about cuteness, cos seriously, who wants to go through a post on cuteness? Not me. So I used Hulk Hogan to keep you reading. teehee 🙂

So, my point is- my niece and nephew are uber-cute and that over-compensates for their crying, naughtiness and grossness, and they’re my sure-shot way of getting a smile out of the grumpiest me and the grumpiest anyone.

Case in point : Nephew un-Scrooging the aunt

Case in point : Nephew un-Scrooging the aunt

 

This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt.

Poetry : The Invitation by Oriah

A friend shared this poem with me last week-a couple of weeks after I discovered a lovely poem, which I shared on this blog yesterday..  The universe seems intent on helping me discover the beauty of poems. This one’s packed with wisdom and I think it’ll have something for everyone who reads it.

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Oriah blogs at The Green Bough.

Poetry that doesn’t challenge my brain

I’m expressive, but I’m a lazy expresser.

My go-to mode of expression is drawing. I can talk about a whole day in pictures and in my head, it seems more effortless than wording out the experience..like I did here> an outing with the family when in Kerala.

But, as I’ve realized, drawing takes more time than typing out my story..which is why I end up posting writing more than drawings on this blog.

Recently, I’ve begun to accept that poetry is a very beautiful form of expression. I don’t usually have the patience for poetry- Poetry is beautiful, I know..but it requires some patience or a fancy brain to unwrap all that flowery, abstract language and find the meaning inside. I’ll just take a fortune-cookie, thank you.  But then there’s this blank verse kinda poetry that’s pretty much like regular writing and lacking excessive floweriness- that I love, especially when the words seem to be exactly what I’ve been feeling.  Oh it reminds me of Spoken Word. I’d love to be able to express my way through spoken word too!

I’ll stop here for this post, and end with a beautiful poem I found on googling. Go on! I promise you it’s worth the read.

Comes the dawn – by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul

and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.

And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises

and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child

and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much

so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn…

This post was written in response to today’s Daily Prompt.